International Caucasus security talks to continue in Geneva

By RIA Novosti,

Geneva : International talks on security in the Caucasus in the aftermath of August’s Russia-Georgia conflict are to continue in Geneva on Wednesday.

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The two-day talks, co-chaired by representatives of the European Union, the United Nations, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, involve Russia, Georgia, and the U.S., as well as Georgia’s two breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

A diplomatic source told RIA Novosti that the sides would focus on ensuring security in the region and the problem of displaced persons.

An earlier round of negotiations that began on October 15 was suspended after Georgia refused to attend meetings involving Abkhazia and South Ossetia, both of which were recognized by Russia as independent states after the conflict.

The talks will be closed to the media. However, it is expected that representatives of the EU, the UN, and the OSCE will hold a press conference at 3:00 p.m. (14:00 GMT). At 4:00 p.m., the head of the Russian delegation, Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin, will hold a joint press conference with representatives from South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Although Tuesday saw the sides hold a series of informal meetings, no official announcements were made. However, the Georgia Foreign Ministry said shortly before the talks began that it would press for an international peacekeeping presence in its breakaway regions to replace Russian peacekeepers.

Russia handed control of buffer zones adjacent to Abkhazia and South Ossetia over to EU and OSCE monitoring missions in Georgia on October 8. The measures are part of international efforts to stabilize the region following Georgia’s attack on South Ossetia in August, which triggered the five-day conflict with Russia.

The EU mission is tasked with ensuring security along the border with Georgia’s disputed republics. Both Abkhazia and South Ossetia are reluctant to allow EU observers on their territory.

The Russian and French presidents, Dmitry Medvedev and Nicolas Sarkozy, agreed in September that Russia’s full withdrawal from undisputed parts of Georgia must take place by October 10. EU monitoring teams were deployed in Georgia on October 1 in preparation for the handover.

Abkhazia and South Ossetia broke away from Georgia following the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s amid armed conflicts that claimed thousands of lives.